In a word - Yes. Even if you are willing to "overlook" some violations and hope that the city doesn't catch up with you, if you ever intend to sell the house your new buyers will want an assurance (in writing) that you are in compliance with all city and county codes and have obtained the proper permits for any improvements. Now is the time to exercise due diligence and contact the local authorities to be sure all permits for work were obtained and closed out... We are in a buyer's market now so take your time to do it right!
You will need to go to two departments 1) Building Dept and 2) Code Compliance.
I can tell you from experience that if their are any open permits with the Building Dept., it could be a hassle to get them closed. Any open permits can only be closed by the Contractor that opened them. Meaning you would need to track down that contractor and have them close the permit themselves and hopefully the contractor is still in business.
Make sure that once you get a list of what permits and/or violations remain open, you also find out the cost to get them resolved as this could affect your decision to buy.
Miami Beach imposes daily fines for code violations that are not addressed, but they will negotiate those fees down if the owner makes an attempt to resolve the issues.
Let me also add that any additions done without permits, not only become the new owner's problem, but it may mean having to "undo" the construction. If you know there is a problem, you will save yourself a lot of headaches by going to the city and pulling the home's file.
Hopefully the violations will be minor or non-existent and you will be able to proceed without a problem.
I am also an architect and can tell you that the city of Miami Beach will let you know what violations are present and as the answer before me states, depending on violation, you will be able to negotiate those.
It is definitely in your best interest to have seller resolve any issues with the city prior to closing.
These pesky violations can often be difficult to uncover and even tricker to satisfy. If there was ever anything that could be "grandfathered in", is your inheritance of any violations or open permits any previous owner has left behind.
Although a home in this condition could be a great bargain (after all, violations could be a great way to pick up a property at a deeper discount), one must know how to properly take care of it or know the right people that can help you with it.
A good title agent or closing attorney may be able to help you uncover these. Some may be easy to cure, while others may be deal killers. Just make sure you follow all previous advice.
Just don't back out yet. If you really like the property, tie it up with an offer if you have to, then make sure that during your inspection period, you bring a good inspector and even a reputable contractor to help you evaluate the extent of the work required to cure a violation or close an open permit. These experts will also help you uncover any other potential issues that you should watch for.
Then, do the math, renegotiate your offer or move on.
Aside from that, if you move forward without proper paperwork of resolved issues, it could be a problem for you down the road.
Having said that: ARE these issues a real problem? ie: if you bought the house anyway, could you fix these problems with little cash? If so.....move on. If you aren't sure or don't want to take the chance, then seek council from a real estate attorney or a good agent in your area.
It all starts with knowing what the violations are.......so get that from your city or county and then make your decision.